A story of opportunity meeting preparation, and a whole lot of #SproutLove.
First, the Preparation
About six months ago, my web business Shovi Websites was at a crossroads. Fifteen years after starting it to help small businesses take advantage of all the wonderful things a well-run web presence had to offer, the rules of the web changed, my expertise had grown significantly in the area of marketing strategy, and my existing client base — wonderful companies with whom I’ve been viewed as a partner, and seen grow online, in some cases for over a decade — simply wouldn’t be able to afford these extra services due to their size and marketing budgets.
If I looked at myself as an employee (and all business owners should, by the way), I was vastly underutilized and not happy at my job, unless I was working on my own marketing projects, or building my own reputation online vs. that of my business.
So I made a choice. A choice to shift Shovi’s focus away from long-term site management engagements, and toward short-term consultancy projects that would help me grow my reputation online and get me noticed for all I had to offer.
But what did “get me noticed for all I had to offer” really mean? What was my end game in making this shift? It was a tough but important question to ask myself as a business owner, not just for the direction of my business and ability to put food on the table for my family, but to be able to enjoy the next fifteen years of my professional career and beyond.
For me, getting noticed didn’t mean writing a book, being featured on expert round-ups, and speaking at conferences (which is a path many a good friend has taken; I’m proud of them, and I enjoy living vicariously through their Instagram feeds of selfies, meetups, and aerial views from airplane window seats).
For me, getting noticed did mean going in-house…for the right fit. I mean let’s get real for a minute, I’ve been my own boss, working from a home office, for a decade and a half. “The right fit” has a much longer set of checkboxes for someone like myself. And it might take a while, but at least I had defined an endpoint for this journey.
With a sound plan in place, one that could take 2-3 years and still provide me with a healthy income and fulfilling career, I still had one thing left to do: write a resume. Which I did, but it wasn’t enough.
To know me is to know all the stuff I’ve published online, the network I’ve built, the communities I’ve grown within. That’s who I am, that’s what you’re getting when you hire me. How does any of that come through on a resume?
It doesn’t. So, like a proper marketer who was marketing himself to other marketers about marketing jobs, and taking the sage advice of Oli Gardner of Unbounce, who said NSAMCWALP (Never Start a Marketing Campaign Without a Landing Page), I logged into my Unbounce account and made a landing page. Not gonna lie, I’m quite proud of it, and indebted to both Ann Handley and Denise Wakeman for the incredibly kind words of praise they lent me for this campaign.
(side note: did you know that Unbounce doesn’t accept resumes? Nope, you have to build a landing page to get hired by a landing page company. I love that, and hope that more companies ditch the tired old resume and look toward application options that let candidates really showcase who they are)
Next, the Opportunity
It’s January of this year, and I’m ready to put this entire plan into motion, which meant lots of networking and visibility. Like I said earlier, a key part of this plan is to “get noticed” so I invested in some social analytics tools, wrote articles, and participated daily in places where I’d built up great friendships, and where potential connections would be most likely to notice me (sorry Google+). Some visibility highlights from the first few months of 2016:
- MarketingProfs – published an on demand presentation for their PRO audience, with companion blog post (that’s been viewed over 5,000 times)
- SEMrush – featured guest on both a Twitter chat and a webinar
- Agents of Change – podcast guest (which led to an offer to speak at their conference)
- The Active Marketer – podcast guest (the host, Barry Moore, and I are both power users of email marketing software, ActiveCampaign)
- Adventures in Visibility – live video chat guest (I’ve been a guest on Denise’s show 4 times now)
- Litmus – collaborated on a blog post about email analytics
Busy first quarter, right? That was just content, the real opportunity would come from advocacy.
As I said, the hope was to activate my networks to help me find the right fit, which meant being more present and genuinely more enthusiastic about those networks and the people I knew in them.
Participating on social with brand hashtags (#SproutChat for Sprout Social, #MPB2B for MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum, etc.) was a first step to staying present and visible.
Back-channel notes and follow up to some of my closest contacts in these communities (along with my landing page link) would help keep me top of mind for when that perfect opportunity came along.
Then the coolest thing happened: Sprout Social launched a customer advocacy program in late January called Sprout All-Stars, which introduced me to their advocacy platform, Bambu. All-Stars like myself would use Bambu to amplify content about Sprout, its customer advocates (us), and other relevant content; all curated for us by Sprout’s Community Outreach Manager, and my friend, Sarah Nagel.
And Now, the Luck
Let’s first talk about how appreciative I was to have someone find me great content, give it context, and even pre-write the tweets and LinkedIn post for me so all I had to do was click a couple buttons in Bambu and boom! my social streams were not only advocating a company I love, but also providing really great content to my networks that I wouldn’t have found on my own.
For a guy who does everything himself, I was in heaven.
And, because of my background, my enthusiasm turned naturally toward helping the Bambu team make the platform even better.
About 2 hours after passing along some feedback via video screencast, my phone rings. It’s Patrick V. Culp, [former] VP of Strategic Operations for Sprout Social. Patrick had gotten wind of my feedback and enthusiasm for Bambu, realized I’d been a Sprout customer for nearly five years, saw on LinkedIn that I was seeking “short-term clients or long-term opportunities”, and viewed my landing page (where he got my phone number).
That all seems pretty straightforward, yes, but what got Patrick to pick up the phone and call me was seriously one of the weirdest alignment of stars you could imagine. It was this tweet, which happened to be atop my Twitter profile at the time he looked me up:
Look at the shortened link. Yes, that’s right, it spells P. V. Culp.
And it’s about Sprout Social.
And so was the tweet before it…I had tweeted that via Bambu as one of the curated links to the All-Star program participants.
What are the odds that all those references to my advocacy for Sprout find themselves aligned at the same time that one of their VP’s goes to check out the person enthusiastically giving feedback about his product…and when he does, one of those references spells out his name?
And what are the odds that, upon looking me up on LinkedIn, he sees the changes I’d literally just made to my profile, indicating that I was on the market?
Patrick and I both saw the serendipitous events of this story as an opportunity to open conversations about joining Sprout and their Bambu product. Which we did, and after continued enthusiasm and discussions, on March 30th, I am both proud and honored to say I’ve officially joined Team Sprout as a Content Solutions Architect for Bambu, a new role designed for my skillset and experience.
The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” I interpret this as a reminder to know what kind of outcomes you’re looking for, and what success looks like, so you can put yourself in the best position for success to find you on its own, even as you are seeking out success yourself.
In other words, clearly defining your outcomes and the path you are taking to achieve them will put you in the best position to capitalize on opportunities whenever and however they manifest themselves…even as a bit.ly link.
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